VOLUME 3, ISSUE 313 | March 25 – 31, 2004
Lesbian Pastor Survives Methodist Trial
Rev. Karen Damman, who recently married her partner Meredith Savage in Oregon, was acquitted in a church trial of violating Methodist law against practicing gay clergy. Rev. James Finkbeiner, her prosecutor, said that while he believed the jury of 13 pastors overstepped the bounds of church law, “I don’t feel bad about that. I’m glad I lost, on a personal basis.”
Damman had been on leave as the pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Ellensburg, Washington. Her acquittal puts her in good standing as she seeks other church jobs.
“It’s been heart stopping at times, too exciting at times,” Damman said. She has been out since 2001. Her bishop, Elias Galvan of Seattle, said, “I expect this issue to continue to be raised until society comes to terms with it.”
Gay issues are expected to be hot topics of discussion at the Methodist Church’s conference that begins in Pittsburgh on April 27.
Dr. King’s Widow Supports Gay Marriage
Coretta Scott King, widow of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., called gay marriage a civil rights issue and denounced a proposed constitutional amendment to ban it, the Associated Press reported.
“Gay and lesbian people have families, and their families should have legal protection, whether by marriage or civil union,” she said during a speech at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey Tuesday. “A constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages is a form of gay bashing and it would do nothing at all to protect traditional marriages.”
Some black leaders have spoken out against comparisons between the civil rights movement, led by King’s late husband, and the current push for equal marriage rights made by gay marriage proponents.
Gay Couples’ Rights Advance in Maine
As Maine goes, the nation may not these days. Amidst all the anti-gay actions by state legislatures this month, the Maine House advanced a bill 76-54 to give same-sex partners inheritance rights when a partner dies without a will. It would also provide rights when a partner dies or is incapacitated, such as victim’s compensation and guardianship. Gov. John Baldacci supports the incremental steps toward justice in a state that bans same-sex marriage.
“It’s a milestone,” Lee Humphrey, the governor’s spokesperson, told the Portland Herald. “We’re moving toward the full recognition of the equal rights of Maine state citizens.”
Massachusetts Amendment Vote is March 29
This coming Tuesday, the combined houses of the Massachusetts state legislature will meet once again in constitutional convention to vote yet again on an amendment to the state Constitution that would both limit marriage to man-woman couples and guarantee gay couples civil unions that comprise all the rights of married couples. With all the maneuvering that has gone on in the convention, it is unclear whether this compromise amendment has the 101 votes necessary to pass it. If it does win on March 29, it must be passed again in the exact same form next year before it can go to the voters in November 2006.
Under an order of the state’s Supreme Judicial Court, marriage licenses must be available to gay and lesbian couples by May 17. Among those expected to go to the Bay State to get married is Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and his partner, Frank de Leon of Manhattan, Newsweek reported. Massachusetts’s law forbids clerks from issuing licenses to couples from states where the marriage would not be recognized. But New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has issued an opinion that while New York cannot perform same-sex marriages, it must recognize legal same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.
This week, right wing groups have filed language to ban both same-sex marriage and civil unions in the state Constitution. It will need 65,825 signatures and approval by only 51 members (one-quarter) of a Constitutional Convention in the 2005-06 session and the 2007-08 session before it could get on the ballot in November 2008. It is being proposed as a back up in case the current process does not produce an amendment for the ballot in 2006.
No One Can Marry in Oregon County
The commissioners of Benton County, OR voted last week to issue licenses to same-sex couples, following the lead of Multnomah County where Portland is located. This Monday, with the legality of the marriages in dispute, the commissioners decided to be fair until the issue is resolved and not issue licenses to anyone, gay or straight.
The Oregon chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit this week seeking a declaration that any state law that excludes same-sex couples from the definition of marriage is unconstitutional.
Meanwhile, out gay Justice Rives Kistler of the state’s high court is being challenged in a May 18 primary by attorney James Leuenberger who once represented anti-gay activist Lon Mabon. Leunberger said he won’t raise the issue of Kistler’s sexuality, but the Oregon Christian Coalition said it will, questioning his “fitness to serve on moral grounds.” The Coalition is also leading a petition drive to recall Multnomah County commission chair Diane Linn and member Lisa Naito for issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. _________________________
Kentucky Blocks Constitutional Amendment
Kentucky already bans same-sex marriage, but a proposal to write that into the state constitution was blocked in the state House of Representatives on Tuesday with four days left in the session. Proponents of the measure vow to keep bringing it up by attaching it to other votes. Gov. Ernie Fletcher supports the amendment.
The Tally from San Francisco
A total of 4,037 same-sex couples got married in San Francisco from February 12 until the state Supreme Court stopped the county from issuing licenses to such couples. Mabel Teng, the county assessor, said that 91 percent were from California, but that 45 states were represented and eight foreign countries. Lesbian couples received 57 percent of the licenses. Eighty-two of the licensed couples either did not go through with their weddings or did not register them, the Associated Press reported. Twenty of the couples were from New York.
Kansas Amendment Moving Forward
Kansas’s state law limiting marriage to man-woman couples was upheld by its state Supreme Court. But the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee moved forward with an amendment to the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. It has been passed by the House and will get a full Senate vote in two weeks, then go to the voters in November.
One of those voting against the amendment was Rep. John Ballou of Gardner, the House speaker pro tem, a former opponent of gay marriage. He took his cures from reading the Federalist Papers, the US Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence.
“I didn’t see anything in them that takes rights away,” he told the Kansas City Star. “I don’t care what anyone else says, my daughters are proud of me.”
Thousands Rally Against Gay Marriage in Minnesota
Thousands of proponents of a state constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage rallied outside the Capitol Building in St. Paul on Monday. A vote on the amendment is scheduled for Friday in the state Senate Judiciary Committee. Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty supports it, calling man-woman marriage “a key to our success as a society and as a community,” the Associated Press reported. “This should be a decision of the people, not activist judges.”
If the amendment passes both houses, it will be on the ballot in November. Unlike some state amendments, this one would not ban civil unions.
Former Gov. Jesse Ventura, a Minnesota independent, came out for same-sex marriage this week. “Love is bigger than government,” he said at a press conference in Boston, where is a visiting fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. “Government should not have the right to tell you who you fall in love with and who you want to spend your life with.”
As governor, Ventura had said marriage should only be between a man and a woman.
Iowa Narrowly Defeats Gay Marriage Ban
The Iowa Senate defeated a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage by a vote of 25-24 on Tuesday. The state already has a Defense of Marriage Act on the books. Janelle Rettig, an Iowa City activist, told the Des Moines Register, “As a lesbian, we’re kind of used to not having victories and so you’re kind of surprised when people take a stand for your rights,” but she acknowledged that this “is just the first round of the battle” with a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as only between a man and a woman still looming.
Patricia Ireland Joins Same-Sex Marriage Fight
Patricia Ireland, the former president of the National Organization for Women, has been hired as a consultant by DontAmend.com and the Equality Campaign to fight the Federal Marriage Amendment.
“Equal marriage rights will be one of the most explosive issues of the 2004 elections,” she said. “This is also an incredible opportunity to make a quantum leap forward, and for me, it’s an opportunity not to be missed.”
Ireland, who has had long-term relationships with both men and women, was the longest serving president of NOW. She had a brief stint as director of the YWCA, but was forced out when conservative groups raised objections. She recently was the campaign manager for former Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun’s bid for the Democratic nomination for president.
Gay Married Man Flashes Opponents, Is Arrested
Darrell Martin, 37, of Dublin, NH, went to New Paltz to marry his partner along with 25 other same-sex couples on Saturday. When he was confronted by anti-gay protesters outside LeFevre House where the weddings were to take place, Martin mooned them, inviting them to “kiss my ass.” After the ceremony, he was arrested for public lewdness and released on $100 bail.
Gale McGovern of the New Paltz Equality Initiative told the Kingston Daily Freeman, “I can understand how he felt. But that’s not the image we want.”
International Front on Gay Relationships
Last week, we reported that Spain’s new Socialist government would seek to pass a same-sex marriage bill. Now comes a report that it will legalize same-sex unions, but may not call them marriages, Reuters said. It will have “the same legal effect,” new Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said.
An Israeli court has recognized the pre-nuptial agreement of a same-sex couple, the first time a financial agreement of this type for a male-male couple has been given legal status, Maariv International reported.
In Norway, the Socialist Party has proposed dropping the partnership law and letting marriage law apply to gay and straight couples. The newspaper Dagsavisen reported that the Labor Party will decide the bill’s fate and that it will need some Center and Conservative Party votes to pass.
Andy Humm is co-host, with Ann Northrop, of Gay USA on MNN. It can be seen Thursdays at 11 PM on Time-Warner 34 and RCN 107 and is simulcast at mnn.org
Andy Humm can be contacted at [email protected]
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